In December, one was announced to start and the other was ousted from Paris SG: five months later, Zinédine Zidane and Thomas Tuchel face each other on Tuesday (9 p.m. / 7 p.m. GMT) in the Champions League semi-final for a shock Real Madrid-Chelsea, two of the dissident clubs of the ephemeral Super League.
Between Zidane, the only coach to have won three consecutive Champions Leagues (2016-2018) and Tuchel, vying to reach a second final in a row with two different teams, the poster promises a game of chess between fine strategists.
But it’s also a funny duel between two teams which, last week, supported the controversial and quickly aborted project of a private competition between the richest clubs, supposed to supplant the Champions League …
How did Zidane raise the bar? At the beginning of December, the “White House” looked grim, threatened with elimination from the group stage of C1 and slowed down in La Liga. According to the press, “ZZ” (48 years old) was then close to being released.
Was he really risking his job? “I don’t know … Everything that happened, if I was about to leave, to stay … All that, we are still talking about it. But that does not change anything”, swept Zidane on Monday at a press conference.
Since then, the French magician has managed to transcend his team: here is his Real competing to reach his fourth C1 final in five years, and returned to the fight to defend his title in La Liga.
By relying on good performances in the Champions League, Zidane silenced the critics and smoothed out the obstacles of the schedule and a jam-packed infirmary.
Even though captain Sergio Ramos and left-back Ferland Mendy are still recovering, Zidane hopes to extend his incredible streak of 14 wins in 15 double knockout matches in C1, with the help of Belgian superstar Eden Hazard, who returned from injury just in time to face his former Chelsea side.
And too bad if Real has, in the meantime, tarnished its cherished club image of the “Big Ears Cup” (13 coronations, a record), by compromising itself in the dissident Super League project carried by its president Florentino Pérez.
Zidane, he remained loyal to Pérez, the man who had recruited him as a player in 2001, before launching him on the merengue bench in 2016: he did not take a public position on the subject … despite a Notice heavy with innuendo Monday: “The Champions League is something special”.
Opposite, Thomas Tuchel (47), finalist of the last Champions League with Paris then ousted at the end of December, intends to repeat the feat with Chelsea.
Since his arrival on the bench at the end of January to replace Frank Lampard, the “Blues” have regained their thirst for victories and a sacred defensive rigor: in 21 matches under the Tuchel era, Chelsea have kept their clean sheet 16 times.
How? ‘Or’ What ? By establishing a defense with three central, in particular, and by making strong tactical choices.
The London club has also regained a confidence and a winning mentality that it had lost at the start of the season: “I’m sure no one wants to play against us,” Tuchel had launched before the draw for the quarter-finals.
“They are the real bad guys”, headlined the Daily Express on Tuesday, while the Spanish daily As made its headlines on “Real Madrid launching their assault towards the final against an almost impervious Chelsea”, presenting this challenge like “a bone on its way to Istanbul”, place of the final.
The German technician also admitted this weekend that “there is nothing harder than playing against Real Madrid. It is the team that has the most experience in this competition. was small, I dreamed of playing against Real Madrid “.
For Tuchel, the coming month will condition the success of his first London season, with an incredible chain of deadlines: the semi-final back and forth against Real, the end of the championship with a 4th qualifying place for the next one. Champions League to be consolidated, and the FA Cup final against Leicester on May 15.
Crucial appointments to allow the “Blues” to reconcile with their supporters, who protested loudly against the Super League, contributing to the withdrawal of English clubs and the abandonment of the project.